This paper describes the natural history of the remnant tidal salt marshes surrounding the San Francisco Bay estuary. These tidal marshes are ephemeral features, strongly influenced by sea-level rise and climate. Evidence contained in the sediments of the San Francisco Bay estuary show earlier incarnations of the estuary existed during glacial periods when the sea level was lower. Over the several-thousand-year history of the modern estuary, vegetation records contained in the tidal-marsh sediments show that tidal marshes have responded both to the long-term, postglacial trend in the rising sea level and to higher-frequency variations in freshwater inflows principally controlled by climate variations. In particular, the tidal marshes of the San Francisco Bay are affected by climatic conditions that dominate the larger watershed region of the estuary. Described here are significant climatic swings that affected the region during the last six thousand years as evidenced in the vegetation records.
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